foraging basket with wildflowers and spring foraging tools in grass at Jordan Winery

Beginners’ Foraging Guide: Four Foraging Tips from a Wine Country Chef

During his tenure as executive chef at Jordan Winery, Todd Knoll has become an expert in foraging. He shared his foraging guide tips for beginners in the first edition of Wine Country Table magazine. Here are four of the forager lessons he’s learned along the way.

Chef Todd Knoll of Jordan Winery foraging
Chef Todd Knoll of Jordan Winery examines blue cama flowers growing wild at Jordan Estate.

1. Keep your eyes open.

Foraging is not an activity for those who like to daydream; the most successful foraging trips are those in which you are focused on what to look for and identifying what you see. Knoll notes he often doesn’t say a word when he’s foraging. That’s by design.

blue cama flower, foraging guide tips
Chef Knoll picks an edible blue cama, not to be confused with the deadly white “death” cama.

2. Know your wild things.

Always carry a field foraging guide so you know what you’re harvesting, from flowers and plants to herbs and fungi. This approach serves two purposes: it keeps you from picking and consuming poisonous materials, and it keeps you informed about which items pack a flavorful punch.

foraging guide, foraging tools, knife with blue camas

3. Go prepared with foraging tools.

Make sure you head out into the forest with the proper tools. Knoll always brings a small machete called a yacare. Other foragers bring heavy-duty clippers or an X-ACTO knife. There are no right answers here; so long as your tool is portable and sharp, it should do the job. You’ll also need a small basket or cloth shopping bag that you don’t mind getting dirty.

meadow of blue cama flowers
A meadow of wild blue camas at Jordan Estate. Once the tubers are harvested for their bulbs, new plants will not grow the following spring.

4. Leave some plants for next time.

Responsible, sustainable foraging is a must, especially when you’re pulling natural material from a finite space. Knoll says he tries to leave at least 20 percent of every wild ingredient, so the edibles have an opportunity to grow again.

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About the Author

Born and raised in rural Kansas, Lisa Mattson fell in love with wine during college in South Florida and worked for a wine magazine before moving to Northern California. She spent almost a decade working as a writer, marketing director and photographer/videographer for Jordan Winery and now serves as a hospitality design and marketing consultant for several wineries, including Jordan. She also designs succulent gardens under the name Sonoma Succulents. When she’s not eating and sipping her way through Sonoma County in the summer and Baja California Sur in the winter, she travels the world with her husband in search of new succulents, ethnic foods, snorkeling spots and tiki bars.

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